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A foundation of collaboration and trust – this is what a sustainable future looks like

7 February 2020
Reading Time: 3 mins

Event Review: 21st Anniversary dinner 9th January 2020




Over sixty invited guests joined UKBCSD for its 21st Anniversary dinner, held at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, London. Chief Executive Charles Roach chaired the evening, thanking sponsors, Sir Robert McAlpine and Prologis UK, before introducing the speakers, Dr Geoff Kendall of Future Fit Foundations and Professor Rob Holdway, of Giraffe Innovations who invited the business representatives present, to consider how they are uniquely qualified to address the sustainable development challenges that lie ahead.

Stressing that there is now clear evidence of the need to change how we exploit the planet’s resources, Dr Geoff Kendall focused on the climate emergency and what it means for future business. We must acknowledge that the relationship between business and the environment is now in delicate balance. He outlined the forces that impact and have the potential to destroy business, in particular automation vs jobs and disruptive technologies, hence our challenge is to ensure business resilience.

Considering the 17 UN SDGs, Geoff said, “These are a useful tool and give us a shared vocabulary to achieve sustainability but how do we as individual businesses know what difference our contributions make to them? We must ask ourselves what societal needs we are addressing and how can we make them better? As a business, what unique knowledge and competencies do we possess and how can we leverage them?”

Professor Rob Holdway talked about the need for an innovation culture, saying, “Culturally we need to start thinking about the lexicon we use, not everyone sees the world or the environmental problem in the same way.”
He noted the lack of intellectual leadership at political level, believing that the public sector must engage, not dictate, the sustainability agenda, if collaborative innovation culture is to become a reality. In his view, Innovation = Solutions = Empowerment = Investment; while Legislation = Response = Misunderstanding = Uncertainty. Climate challenge, Climate crisis or Climate emergency?  These often interchangeable terms, reflect the often confusing agendas driving our national policy. We need to reflect on the reality that the cultural change needed takes commitment and time

“At this seriously challenging time in our history, an innovation culture promotes the importance of pro-environmental behaviours but sustaining an increasingly urbanised world puts unimaginable pressure on the environment”

As an example, Rob explained that London, the smallest of the world’s ‘megacities’, has an ecological footprint twice the size of the UK (an ecological footprint representing the amount of productive land or sea needed to produce the resources consumed by Londoners and absorb the waste generated). Putting this into even sharper focus, in the UK we individually consume 12 tons of carbon per year, so relating our micro actions to any scale relevant to what is needed to address sustainable environments, is overwhelming if approached solely by short term actions by individuals*

Jason Longhurst, Chairman of UKBCSD, concluded; “This event hosts cross-industry representation with over 200 years of industry experience, investors, developers, occupiers, agents, planners, policy-makers and critically – the one missing element from the current climate debate in meeting 2020’s challenges – we have industry leaders too.

“I need you to join me in aligning our efforts to commit to addressing the gap in leadership on meeting these challenges. We already have the innovators, the investors and the organisational knowledge to lead a tangible response but we need a shared plan with leadership to commit to how we measure success. I have heard and read so much on what we are not doing, so let’s commit to aligning our CSR, ESG and SDG approaches. Let’s unlock our innovation, our potential, our skills and the leadership our sector holds in partnership.

“As the country looks forward to hosting the UN Climate Summit, this is the year we must make the difference. We must show the public sector we are ready to engage with them in delivering the solutions that address, hand-in-hand, both our desire to mitigate the climate emergency and give assurance to all, that sustainable growth is achievable for the UK.”

*What can I do as an individual to reduce my carbon footprint?  A guide to promoting Pro-Environmental behaviours



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